Paustovskij’s “Moscow Summer” as Architectural Polemic

In Paustovskij’s 1930 short story, “Moscow Summer,” one of its protagonists, the architect Hoffman, is responsible for the design and construction of a workers’ rest home in suburban Moscow which he must later defend at a “comradely” meeting of the Construction Bureau. The feature writer, Mett, calls the Fifth Day “Beautiful!” while the reporter, Danilov, excoriates it for being, “lifeless,” and “something of the crematorium,” although, we are told, by the narrator, that “a famous French architect considered Hoffman’s project a work of genius.”

That “famous French architect,” strongly resembles Le Corbusier, whose modernist theories of rationalism and functionalism were promulated in the USSR among avant-garde architectural circles in the 1920s, and who designed the Centrosojuz Building erected on Moscow’s Mjasnickaja Street between 1928 and 1935. Written on the cusp of increasing hostility toward modernist-constructivist tendencies in Soviet architecture, “Moscow Summer” mirrors the ideological antagonisms of its day by employing architecture to metaphorically illustrate the growing institutionalized tendency in favor of Stalinist Classicism.

This paper examines and contrasts Paustovsky/Hoffman’s “Fifth Day,” its polemic, and Le Corbusier’s aesthetic with what—in two years after the story’s publication—would become Socialist Realism. Accompanying this paper are recently-taken slides at Le Corbusier’s newly-restored Villa Savoye in Poissy, near Paris, that illustrate the architect’s concept of the house as a “machine for living,” and relate the Villa to Hoffman’s “Fifth Day.”